Sudan war: Scots woman who led evacuation of Britons fleeing fighting speaks of helping a woman who was sexually assaulted after watching mother murdered
A Scottish woman who led a UK mercy mission to evacuate thousands of people fleeing war in Sudan has spoken of the horrors escapees suffered before their rescue.
Grace Chun, from Inverness, headed up the UK’s Rapid Deployment Team which was sent to Cyprus to help British nationals who had escaped there after violence erupted in Sudan.
Speaking for the first time since returning, the 56-year-old mother of two recalled some of the terrible situations people had endured. “Lots of people arriving had been caught up in the violence and had had traumatic experiences,” she said.
“There were people coming in who had gunshot wounds or were ill and infirm. The Cypriots had a doctor on hand 24/7, so that if anyone came in needing wounds treated or any kind of injury or illness they were dealt with right away.
“Everybody had quite a harrowing story to tell. There were people who said they were hiding for days before they could make an attempt to escape. They were just so grateful to be safe.”
She recalled the “strength and bravery” of a mother who had just days earlier given birth by caesarean section and made the journey from Sudan to Cyprus with her newborn.
But her “most heart-breaking memory” was supporting a woman who had seen her own mother killed in front of her and been sexually assaulted.
“She was understandably scared of all the people in uniform, which is totally natural,” she said.“We had a woman supporting her at all times and helped her feel less afraid by treating her with kindness and reassuring her that she was safe.”
Ms Chun added: “There were other mums with babies who were ill, quiet and withdrawn. The difference in these children after a night of treatment and being rehydrated was amazing. They looked like different people and it was just really heartening.”
More than 800 people, including humanitarian aid workers, are known to have been killed since the conflict broke out on April 15. At least 1.3 million people have also been forced to abandon their homes amid brutal fighting between Sudan’s military, led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, led by General Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo.
UK rapid deployment teams were sent to Khartoum, Port Sudan, Cyprus and Saudi Arabian city Jeddah to support British nationals needing help.
The UK Government has contributed more than £250 million in humanitarian support to Sudan over the past five years, and has recently committed a further £5m of life-saving aid to help those displaced by the violence.
Ms Chun said she was “proud” to have been part of the evacuation – the longest and largest by any western nation, with more than 2,450 people removed.
“At the end of the day we got over 2,400 people out, so we will have undoubtedly saved lives as the fighting continues to rage across Sudan,” she said.
Foreign secretary James Cleverly commended the team’s achievements and their “tireless service and dedication”.“Our priority now is to ensure that humanitarian assistance reaches those who need it and to continue to press for a long-term ceasefire,” he said.
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